Exploring the Towns and Ghost Towns of the Mid-North

Part 2 (part 1 here).

It got quite cold overnight...

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There isn’t normally enough moisture to get frost like this in South Australia, but as I said, we’d had a lot of rain.

I was actually fine in the swag. With a combination of my old Army synthetic sleeping bag and my MacPac down sleeping bag. The only problem was I closed the swag up a bit too much and got a lot of condensation inside, with the dampness of the air and the big temperature difference between inside and outside. So the outside of the down bag was quite damp.

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So I start up the 6er and whack the heater on full and stick the sleeping bag inside. On start up, the car makes a distinct electronic ‘boing!’ I’ve never heard that before... I look inside and the long dead (very 80's) OBC (On Board Computer - computer) has suddenly com to life with an outside temperature and I figure the boing is an ice warning (this is an ex-UK car), consider me warned.

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I drag the chair and the swag into the sun to start defrosting, and take myself off for a hot shower. Easily worth the $15 camping fee on its own. Packed up I headed back down to the pub, of which the food side was now serving big breakfasts to the bikers. I grab a coffee and a bacon and egg roll before having a quick cruise around Peterborough. This town has more purpose than some of the others I came through yesterday, but is clearly I far cry from its heyday. Town’s like this need to give people a reason to visit, and this town has one.

So I head to the motorbike museum, fully expecting it to be overrun with the Tassie biker group, but strangely I pass them heading out of town on the way. Did they visit yesterday late afternoon before they got to the pub? Maybe, but it seemed like they had just come in off the road, and wouldn’t you rather go fresh in the morning rather than after a day’s ride? Maybe they just missed the sign and maybe the bike themed pub owner didn’t mention it? Who knows but I figured that would be their main reason for coming here, there aren’t that many bike museums around.

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Anyway, that means the museum is quiet and I have a good chat with the owner. About insurance (the biggest expense), a similar museum down in Port Macdonnell (he knows the owner), and technology - how simple changes can have big impacts on businesses and communities.

I’m not much of a bike guy, but there was certainly some different stuff in this museum, mostly 70's, lots of Italian and small capacity stuff. Anyway, absolutely worth $7 bucks.

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This is a Russian made bike that was sold in Australia, the price was $1 per cc apparently, with 350cc and 650cc versions. Pretty terrible to ride so I’m told.

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It’s not just bikes.

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This orange pair caught my eye. The owner has owned these two bikes for about 30 years. Laverda. Apparently the one above was the fastest (road) bike in the world when launched.

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Twin cam, supercharged, intercooled, and water cooled. A replica of a Benelli from 1939.

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I fuel up and punch on. A slight detour north to Black Rock, before turning the shark nose south.

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A quick map of todays route.

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Black Rock is another defunct railway station. Some buildings are still inhabited and in good condition, others, less so.

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The roads are long and straight out here.

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From here down to Jamestown, the biggest town of the region and birthplace to R.M. Williams, whose company is still going strong today.

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Although even that has its fair share of empty buildings. The grand pubs and hotels are often the first to go, no longer is the population large enough or wealthy enough to sustain so many of these big establishments.

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It must be noted that it is the empty buildings, and the towns that have that whiff of desolation and despair that draw me to this region. I can’t quite put my finger on why, maybe it’s like why do you enjoy a Stephen King book? Certainly where I come from in the UK, there isn’t really anything like this.

I have a mosey around, and spot this. What is this strange beast?

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It’s an OKA. I’ve written about these unique Australian off-road beasts before. This one was for sale.

A couple of old dears are exchanging pleasantries as they get into their cars “not much rain dear” “only a sprinkle, we need more” “take care love” “you too dear” - I wonder how many times they’ve had a chat like that over the years!?

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I get some lunch at the busy and good cafe in town (I also like to see businesses doing well out here) and then head east to another little hamlet I’ve never been to before called Caltowie. There is a music festival here in September, I might just come up for that. After our big trip I feel a stronger connection to country Australia than ever.

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From here I chance a short section of dirt road to connect to the next piece of bitumen. As I previously wrote I’m not worried normally about dirt roads in the Bimmer, but all this rain has made them a bit more of an uncertainty. There is only so much you can tackle with not much ground clearance and very secondhand rear tyres.

I track west. Through Appila, where we camped at the springs on our very first night heading out to drive around Australia. Nearly a full year ago.

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Canola fields and cherry blossoms looking as good as ever.

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I’m heading for a particular road. One I’ve driven a few times before and probably rate as the best bit of bitumen in the state. It runs through the Flinders Ranges, roughly between Murray Town and Port Germein. About 15km of that road looks like this.

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Up until now I’ve just been cruising around, sat 10km/h under the speed limit, soaking up my surroundings. But this road is too good to pass up, so I up the ante. I’ve done a few mods to the 635 that means it’s a pretty effective drivers car, and the muscle memory of how to drive this car fast soon comes back to me. Hard on the brakes, heel and toe downshift through the dog-leg gear change. The front end has very strong grip and then you just meter out the power as the corner opens up, just smearing the rear tyres across the road. It’s a pretty physical experience, but you really have to drive it. It gets better the harder you push. Of course this is a public road with some slow moving 4x4's coming the other way, so I save heroics for the well sighted clear sections, and just keep it merely brisk where you can’t see so far ahead. The adrenaline hit from driving a car fast on a road like this is a tonic you have to give yourself every now and then.

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The Six Series isn’t fast by any modern measure, but it feels fast. Also urgent and involving and challenging in a way that you just don’t get with modern machinery either.

Then I clear the gorge and pop back out to the highway. I had been debating where to camp tonight, but the call has come through from The Captain that the gearbox has to come out of the Evo (see Part 1), which is neither a quick or a one man job. I know he is entered in another hillclimb this weekend, so time is of the essence to get the problem diagnosed and fixed. So just as turning up in your newly built race car and having it break straight away, is just part of motor sport. So is having mates that pitch in to help you fix it. So I hang a left and head for home.

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Thanks for reading.

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